Can You Work Out After Getting A Tattoo? Here’s How Long To Wait

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It can be really exciting to get new ink on your body. Many people think long and hard about getting a tattoo, and when they finally take the plunge, the placement and design are deeply meaningful or symbolic of something important in their life.

However, the process of getting a tattoo doesn’t just begin with the fun, ideation brainstorming session, and end in the painful process of actually getting permanent ink on your body. 

Rather, there is also a tattoo recovery period that ensues when you walk out of the tattoo studio with your newly-inked design. Healing from a tattoo can involve modifying certain aspects of your lifestyle, one of which is your workout routine.

Can you work out after getting a tattoo? How long do you need to wait to exercise after getting a tattoo?

In this article, we will talk about working out after getting a tattoo, both in terms of how long you should wait to work out after getting a tattoo and tips for working out after getting a tattoo.

We will cover: 

  • Can You Work Out After Getting a Tattoo?
  • Why Do You Need to Wait to Work Out After Getting a Tattoo?
  • How Long Do You Have to Wait After Getting a Tattoo Before Working Out?
  • What Types Of Exercise Can You Do With a New Tattoo?
  • What Types Of Exercise Should You Avoid With a New Tattoo?
  • 7 Tips for Exercising With a New Tattoo

Let’s dive in! 

A person getting a tattoo on their arm.

Can You Work Out After Getting a Tattoo?

Many people who decide to take the plunge and get a tattoo, inform themselves about the process of actually getting the tattoo but do not go one step further and consider what tattoo recovery entails.

However, it’s also important to understand that a tattoo inflicts a wound on the body, so a healing process is necessary. 

So, you may be asking yourself, can I work out after getting a new tattoo?

The short answer is no; you should not work out immediately after getting a new tattoo.

You need to give your skin time to heal before resuming most types of exercise, particularly if you are going to be sweating or if the area of your body with the new tattoo will be rubbed, jostled vigorously, or can get wet.

Why Do You Need to Wait to Work Out After Getting a Tattoo?

There are several reasons why you need to wait to resume your workout routine after getting a new tattoo.

A person getting a tattoo on their thigh.

The primary reasons you need to wait to start working out after getting a tattoo include the following:

A New Tattoo Is an Open Wound

Although we think of tattoos as just being something on the surface of the skin, a new tattoo is an open wound. All of the hundreds or thousands of tiny needle punctures that go into your skin when creating a new tattoo are patent opportunities for bacteria to enter your body.

Particularly if you are working out at a gym, where any type of exercise equipment may harbor tons of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, it can be risky to work out with any sort of open wound, including a new tattoo. 

The risk of infection is high, and it can be nearly impossible to cover the tattoo thoroughly enough to prevent germ infiltration.

Exercise Can Stretch a New Tattoo

While the skin heals after getting a new tattoo, it is best not to over-stretch the tissue. 

However, any type of physical activity can cause muscle contractions underneath the skin that lead to a bulging or stretching of the overlying skin. This can disrupt the healing process and prevent proper scab formation.

Two hand tattoos, a bird and a cage.

A New Tattoo Shouldn’t Get Wet

There’s a specific protocol for properly cleaning a new tattoo, and sweating during exercise and/or submerging a tattoo while trying to swim can disrupt the healing process and may potentially alter the visual appearance of your tattoo before the ink has fully set.

Exercise May Rub a New Tattoo

Depending on the placement of your new tattoo and the type of workout that you do, it is possible that there will be excessive friction over the fresh tattoo, either from clothing rubbing on the area or from one body part contacting the new tattoo.

For example, if you get a tattoo on your ankle, your socks might create friction against the tattoo as you exercise, and if you get a new tattoo along your rib cage, your arm might rub back and forth along the skin as you run or walk.

How Long Do You Have to Wait After Getting a Tattoo Before Working Out?

Guidelines for how long to wait before working out after getting a tattoo vary somewhat depending on the size and placement of the tattoo as well as the type of exercise that you want to do.

However, most professional tattoo artists suggest that you wait a minimum of 48-72 hours before resuming vigorous activity and heavy sweating.

A person with a tattoo on their upper back.

This would include exercises such as running, strenuous indoor cycling workouts, high-intensity resistance training, vigorous elliptical or stair climber use, etc.

Swimmers should lay off for a few weeks to avoid the possibility of infection – as your tattoo artist about this one.

As a general rule of thumb, you can resume working out sooner (closer to the 48-hour end of the range) after smaller tattoos that cover less surface area of your skin than large tattoos that cover big swaths of skin (wait 72 hours).

In terms of location, you can start working out 48 hours after getting new tattoos that are on areas of the skin that aren’t prone to stretching, much movement, friction, or sweating. Examples include the shin, wrist, back of the hand, and ankle (if you can keep clothing from rubbing the area).

Areas of the body that are in more mobile tissue where the skin might be stretched, rubbed, or get highly sweaty are better served by waiting closer to 72 hours before working out.

Examples include the biceps, shoulders, neck, back, trunk, thighs, and calves.

It’s important to keep in mind that full healing can take upwards of 4 to 6 weeks, so even though you can resume your workout routine well before this time, you should still be mindful of the area, particularly within the first week.

A person with a tattoo on their shoulder.

What Types Of Exercise Can You Do With a New Tattoo?

Although strenuous physical activity should be avoided for a minimum of 48 to 72 hours after getting a new tattoo, depending on the location and size of the tattoo, low-intensity exercise may be possible within 24 hours after getting the new tattoo.

If you are eager to resume exercise after getting a tattoo, it is often a good idea to start with gentle walking. If you do not feel any type of stretch or pulsing in the tattoo, you can pick up the pace.

Easy cycling on an exercise bike can also be workable as long as you do not have a new tattoo on the thighs or gluteal region.

If your tattoo is on your upper body, you should be able to perform lower-body strengthening exercises such as squats, lunges, step-ups, and hip thrusts, particularly if you are not holding additional weights because arm involvement may stretch the tattoo.

If your new tattoo is on your lower body, you should be able to perform upper-body strengthening exercises such as push-ups, bench press, lat pull-downs, rows, curls, dips, and pull-ups.

A person with a new tattoo working out with exercising she can do.

What Types Of Exercise Should You Avoid With a New Tattoo?

It is important to avoid any type of exercise that may stretch, rub, or tug on the skin underlying a new tattoo.

It is also important to avoid swimming and exercising outdoors where the tattoo would be exposed to the sun.

Contact sports may also involve tugging or grabbing on the body part with the new tattoo, so you should avoid any type of sport where someone might contact the tattoo directly or your body in general.

7 Tips for Exercising With a New Tattoo

Here are a few tips for working out after getting a tattoo:

  • Follow the tattoo aftercare instructions given to you. This information should provide cleaning instructions and what to be mindful of during the healing process.
  • Wait 48-72 hours before resuming vigorous exercise.
  • Start with low-impact, low-intensity exercise like walking or cycling to make sure the tattoo doesn’t seem to be stretched, jostled, or irritated by exercising.
  • Keep the tattoo out of the sun.
  • Do not swim or sweat on the tattoo, as this can prevent the ink from setting properly.
  • Cover the tattoo with a sterile dressing when you exercise in public spaces like gyms.
  • Don’t wear tight clothing on the tattoo. The skin needs to be able to breathe.

Overall, aim to wait 48-72 hours after getting a new tattoo and stay mindful of the sensations in your new tattoo while you work out. For example, if you feel throbbing, tugging, or pulling on the skin, you should cease exercise or try a different physical activity.

If you decide to start out with some walking after getting your new tattoo, check out our walking guides here!

A person walking.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

1 thought on “Can You Work Out After Getting A Tattoo? Here’s How Long To Wait”

  1. the section that says you should “wait a minimum of 48-72 hours before resuming vigorous activity and” which then goes on to list swimming as part of that category is potentially dangerous. most tattoo artists say to wait weeks, often 4+, before swimming as there’s a high chance of infection when swimming with a fresh tattoo.

    i think you should ammend this to explicitly state it’s weeks, not days, as infections can be very dangerous.

    Reply

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